Is this the end? Morrison may be cleared of obscenity after 40 years
Wednesday 10 November 2010
Almost 40 years after his death, Jim Morrison could finally be allowed to rest in peace after the Governor of Florida said he was willing to consider a posthumous pardon of The Doors singer, who was sentenced to jail in 1969 for indecent exposure and profanity at a concert in Miami.
Charlie Crist, who leaves office after Christmas, told fans to "stay tuned", adding that the enduringly controversial circumstances of Morrison's conviction are "something I'm willing to look into in the time I have left". He told an interviewer: "Anything is possible!"
The announcement has once more turned the events of 1 March 1969 into a subject of national debate. That was the night when a highly inebriated Morrison enlivened a Doors gig at Miami's Dinner Key Auditorium by repeatedly swearing at the sell-out crowd, and is said to have exposed his genitalia.
In his subsequent obscenity trial, which lasted six weeks and included heated discussion about free speech, Morrison was cleared of lascivious behaviour and (perhaps oddly) drunkenness. But he was found guilty of profanity and indecent exposure, for which he was sentenced to six months in prison and given a $500 fine.
An appeal was still wending its way through the court system two years later when Morrison died in Paris, where he was living while on bail. The circumstances that led to his naked body being found in a bathtub have sparked endless conspiracy theories, but are likely to have involved some form of drug overdose.
Governor Crist first hinted that he was willing to consider a pardon in an interview with The Hill, a Washington news website, over the weekend. On Monday, he told reporters at a rally against global warming, where he was speaking with Sheryl Crow, that he hoped to raise it at a meeting of the State's Board of Executive Clemency in early December.
"[Morrison] died when he was 27. That's really a kid, when you think about it, and obviously he was having some challenges," said Crist. "There's also some dispute about how solid the case was." That's putting things mildly. Although there are many bootleg recordings of the notorious 1969 concert, in which Morrison asked the audience if they wanted to "see my cock", no video or photograph has ever been uncovered which can definitively prove whether he did, in fact, proceed to expose himself. At the trial, witnesses gave conflicting evidence.
Yesterday, Ray Manzarek, the former Doors keyboardist, told Associated Press that he cannot recall Morrison exposing himself. He did, however, admit that the singer was worse for wear. "Jim taunted the audience. 'I'm going to show you! I'm going to show it to you!' Then he took his shirt off, held it in front of him like a bullfighter's cape, [and] wiggled it around as if there was something going on behind it," Manzarek recalled.
Crist's decision to revisit the issue comes against the background of a fierce political battle in Florida, the swing State where Morrison was born. The centrist Republican Governor, who stood down to contest a US Senate seat, was beaten to the party's nomination this year by Marco Rubio, a right-wing candidate endorsed by the Tea Party.
He subsequently decided to stand in the Senate election as an independent, but was soundly beaten. Cynics therefore wonder whether Crist's decision to now reconsider Morrison's conviction represents an effort to stick two fingers up at conservative voters who forced him from office.
But former friends of The Doors singer hope the case is beyond partisan politics. "You know what would really be nice?" added Manzarek. "Florida is Jim's home state. He's a Florida boy. Wouldn't it great if Florida could finally say, 'Hey, native son, your name is cleared. We recognise you as a young American poet'."
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